WARSAW—Anna Grodzka made history in Poland as the country’s first transsexual member of parliament after a new anti-clerical party stormed to third place in Sunday’s general election.
Born as a man, Grodzka, now 57, recently completed her sex change, part of which was carried out in Bangkok, Thailand.
“With 99 percent of the results in, I have been elected,” Grodzka told AFP Monday, with official results showing she had scored 19,000 votes in the deeply Catholic southern Polish city of Krakow – once home to the late Polish-born pope John Paul II.
“I’m thrilled. It’s the dream of my life come true today, and a new chapter has started,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.
“Today, Poland is changing. I’m the proof,” insisted Grodzka, a declared atheist who has worked as a publisher, and more recently a filmmaker.
Ever since her childhood as a boy, Grodzka says she had known that inside she was female, although she fathered a son when she was still a man. She intends to propose legislation facilitating gender changes in Poland.
Grodzka ran for parliament with the outspoken Palikot Movement, which broke new political ground by sharply challenging the powerful Roman Catholic Church.
Led by Janusz Palikot, a flamboyant tycoon-turned-politician, the party scored some 10 percent of the vote Sunday, behind the conservative Church-backed Law and Justice party and Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centrist Civic Platform, which won a new term.
Palikot campaigned for the liberalisation of Poland’s restrictive abortion law, free access to contraception, the legalization of soft drugs, and gay marriage among other controversial issues that traditional political parties have shunned.
Catholic leaders have been blunt in their criticism of Palikot’s political ascent.
“We don’t have the right to elect someone who supports legalizing gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. It’s forbidden!” bishop Stanislaw Napierala said.
Despite about 90 percent of Poles declaring themselves Roman Catholic, the Palikot Movement and its irreverent leader – a 46-year-old philosophy graduate who earned his fortune in vodka before entering politics – appeals to a growing tide of young liberal-minded voters seeking a more clearly defined separation of Church and State.
“Anti-clericalism has always been present in Poland’s history in one form or another, but here we have a new generation of Poles who are making their voice heard,” Warsaw-based commentator Professor Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski told AFP.
Palikot, who left Tusk’s Civic Platform last year, has for his part described the Church as both a “political party and a financial corporation.”
His movement is also lobbying for an end to public funding for the Church and catechism classes in state schools, reversing the restitution of religious properties nationalized under communism, and banning clergy from official state ceremonies.
Figures published this May suggested that after the 2005 death of pope John Paul II – already revered as a saint in his homeland – the influence of the Catholic Church is waning.
The number of young men choosing priesthood dropped by more than 40 percent between 2005 and 2010, suggesting the social clout the Church gained as a bastion of opposition during 44 years of communism, which ended in 1989, is slipping away.